The original thread, along with the feedback it received at the time, can be found here:
Disclaimer: As 2038 progresses, much of the info in these guides is very likely to, or even bound to, not apply in the future. The purpose of these guides is to highlight how classes differ from their Global/SP counterparts, so as to provide leveling testers with more efficient ways to test later content.
Disclaimer #2: The builds outlined below are most often functional after lv30, as they do often use lv25-30 skills. It is noteworthy that not all such builds will be easy to start from lv1 with, either due to high gear dependency (ie Shrapnel) or a significant lack of AoE that would assist in leveling. Therefore, in such cases it is highly advised that testers either
- deviate from such builds in favor of more AoE-oriented ones early on, and later reskill to them, or
- account for the relative lack of AoE through the use of early/mid-game weapons that assist in that front, either by themselves or by providing AoE skills.
What’s the Summoner now?
While Summoners have always been a diverse class, Global had arguably allowed three specific builds to be effective in the endgame, two of which were often preferred. Tank Summoners would specialize in Zombie Form (currently Darkform) and roughly go for this build (scroll to “Zombie Build”) with some modifications, while damage-dealing Summoners would either go for an Elemental build (see here under “Elemental Build” for an example) or specialize in the Toxic tree and roughly go for this build.
Currently Summoners are in a very different situation. Darkform can be used more offensively for endgame content, +minion damage is much more beneficial but Elementals are harder to specialize into, the Toxic tree is absent, and (certain) guns are surprisingly useful. Thus, Summoners can currently be very effective damage-dealers with a low minion count and/or Darkform, or, to borrow a quote from my old guide, “[…] Cabal gun-wielders, who snipe away at enemies behind an army of minions”.
Key differences with Global (details in spoiler tags)
A very condensed list of changes present in TCv4 can be found here.
While outlined above, the class is so massively different from its Global counterpart that many differences need to be highlighted.
+Minion damage works, but +minion health/armor is halved.
+Minion damage seems to have a much higher cap (if any) than Global’s assumed 300-400% (see here and here, though t3 only “guessed” themselves). This has a very visible effect on the Warper and damage-dealing Elementals.
However, +minion health/armor have been halved. The incredibly useful +50% bonuses on either have been cut down to ~30% at most, thus limiting the maximum number of either a player can practically acquire.
The Warper works.This cannot be stressed enough. With high +minion damage, and possibly commands, the Warper deals massive amounts of damage. There is absolutely no comparison to its Global counterpart; the Warper is a cannon on bat legs.
(Massive numbers of) Elementals don't work.While a broad statement, it's sadly an accurate one. Players will find themselves unable to sustain massive numbers of Elementals due to available power, so Global's 41-Elementals build is practically impossible. Reduced +minion health/armor don't favor the already fragile Elementals, and their current 3-second cooldown makes their constant presence very difficult to sustain. Lastly, they currently self-destruct if the player distances themselves too much, making them even more unreliable for basic PvE.
Mass Summoning, Elemental Revenge and Elemental Fortitude are missing.Tied to the above point, these skills introduced in Global are currently missing. This serves as one more inconvenience towards replicating Global's Elemental-based builds.
The Toxic tree is missing.Much to my personal dismay, the Toxic tree is currently missing. This renders Global's Toxic-based builds impossible by default.
Summoning Empowerment is missing.This, along with lower +minion health/armor, makes main demons much less sturdy than their Global counterparts.
The Witch Doctor's Hand of Nostrum is not built-in.Rather, it's a separate activated skill. This increases the skillpoints required for the Witch Doctor to be as efficient as it was in Global, while also becoming a burden on an already-limited power pool.
The TC armor line has an inherent power point penalty.All Feral gear currently has an inherent power point penalty, adding up to -33% if the player wears all 7 pieces. While Summoners may ignore said armor line in favor of specialized Mythics, they also lose the considerable offensive bonuses that come with it.
Novas work.Possibly the most basic difference with Global, in 2038 Shrapnel and Exploding Spikes currently* work terrifyingly well. Summoners can make very good use of both using either high-RoF/constant guns or Darkform.
- This is an aspect of the game that is very likely to change in the future. But currently, it’s a very efficient leveling/farming option.
Gear (details in spoiler tags)
Desirable properties, some of which had previously been of secondary importance, include:
+power.All Summoners will find much more use in +power pieces than they did in Global, due to the aforementioned issues with their power pool.
+AA/+stat pieces.All Summoners will also find much more use in +AA/+stat pieces, Darkform Summoners even more so. +AA/+WILL assist one's power pool. +AA/+STR/+ACC assist with covering feeds of Ripshards (formerly Claws, considerable ACC feeds) and Bloodshards (TC-only foci, considerable STR feeds). +AA/+any stat assist Darkform Summoners in surviving and dealing more damage. ACC increases their melee/movement speed, STR increases their melee damage, STA (whose hp bonus is then multiplied by Darkform) allows them to survive more (as Drain Life also scales with one's total HP pool) and WILL addresses their ever-present power pool issue.
+Minion damage, followed by +minion health/armor.The importance of +minion damage cannot be stressed enough, as it makes Warper builds viable. With enough of it, even 10 Toxic Elementals alone can provide decent damage against bosses as long as they survive. It also massively benefits Dark Minions (formerly Zombie Minions). Due to the general shift away from mass-Elemental builds and the inherent durability of Forces and the Carnagor, +minion health/armor may often be of secondary importance. Their reduced caps may still necessitate seeking at least some pieces with these properties, however.
+Elemental damage and +elemental strength.Global had little use for this property, but currently using a Mythic set of armor that grants a decent sum of +elemental strengths can be very efficient. +Ignite strength is now more likely to actually help ignite a boss, and the Dessicator calls for massive +poison strength.
Shrapnel.The mother of all damage-dealing, this property currently works terribly well. Any high-RoF/constant weapon can truly shine when filled with Shrapnel. More on this below.
Nova weapons (details in spoiler tags)
Note: a mini-guide dedicated to gunslinger Summoners can be found here.
Non-Darkform Summoners can very safely choose to make use of Shrapnel and Exploding Spikes. While any high-RoF/constant weapons can assist in this, I feel two particular weapons deserve honorable mentions.
These weapons seem to have been made to work specifically with Novas. They can be upgraded to decent levels (~ilv46, roughly), have decent base damage, and, most importantly, fire 7 (!) constant beams each. This ensures they’ll be triggering Novas at an even higher rate than the Evokers’ Arc Legion skill, while requiring no power to use.
Downsides include 4 max sockets, a depleting power bar, and a very limited range of 10m. The latter makes boss encounters more dangerous, as it forces players into close quarters.
Earlier variants of this weapon include The Kraken, Wurm’s Multitude and Beryl Dragon.
Techsmith's Noxious Effluviator and regular Baneblasters
The former being a lower-level, Legendary variant of the latter, both are splendid Nova weapons. High RoF, splash damage and a decent cap of 3 slots all assist in using Novas.
Effluviators seem to be the better choice among the two as they possess double the RoF (600 over 300) but they’re only available as first-kill drops in 314’s boss encounter. They can be upgraded to a decent ilv36, and their lower damage is compensated by double RoF.
Regular Baneblasters have the added bonus of being potentially more customizable, as Mythic varieties can naturally have Mythic properties such as +elemental strengths, +minion damage and others.
Foci (details in spoiler tags)
Darkform Summoners will likely have much more use for foci than non-Darkform ones, but all Summoners can use one (or two, if a point is invested in Darkform). While all foci can be used with Novas, certain foci types also have distinct advantages Summoners can consider.
Formerly Claws, Ripshards currently have a massive inherent 25% base crit. Coupled with 3 max slots and the Feral armor line’s inherent +crit bonuses, crit builds are very, very easy for Ripshard users.
Unique variants of this foci include Megalodon (which provides points in Forces and Master, and +minion health/armor), Remnants of Grregas (which grants points in all main demons, Summoning Circle and decent +minion damage) and Black Angel (which provides melee/movement speed and cdb vs Demons, making it an ideal Darkform foci).
Exclusive to the TC, these foci provide an actually useful auto-attack and massive inherent poison attack strength. Combined with +poison attack strength relics and possibly the respective Mythic weapon property, Bloodshards are the ideal foci to inflict poison on such bosses as the Dessicator.
Very useful Unique variants of this foci include Tuskull (which provides points in Drain Life and Brom’s Curse, and has +phase strength) and The Abandoned Fist (which provides melee speed and HP/power bonuses).
Builds (details in spoiler tags)
Given the factors discussed above, here are the rough outlines of two builds that can work sufficiently.
Note, both builds take for granted a +1 to All Skills helmet. This is much easier to augment compared to Global, and it’s generally not a rare augment by any means.
Such gear as Tuskull, Balbi’s Ring, Remnants of Grregas and other +AS/+skill weapons and rings can also provide room to expand on these builds. They are not accounted for in either build, to ensure gear dependency is kept at a bare minimum.
1/10 Spectral, 1/10 Force (2 with +1 AS)
The former is meant to provide a chance to phase enemies, while the latter are meant to be used as meatshields when needed.
More points can be invested in either, or other Elementals. The Elemental count in this build is kept low to ensure that one’s power pool is unhindered, and that the Witch Doctor always has fewer targets than its healing beams (3 + 3 Dark Minions + the player= 7). Of course, a lower Elemental count and the lack of the Warper mean that +minion damage is less significant than in other builds, but Dark Minions still benefit massively from it.
3/6 Blood Link (4/6 with +1 AS), 9/10 Summoning Circle
Note: 3 points in the former are a prerequisite for the latter, despite the planner’s depiction.
Blood Link ensures that the player can heal the Doctor if need be, and Circle allows the Doctor to survive more.
Circle isn’t maxed for point economy, but an extra skillpoint for it can easily be accounted for by gear/ring choices.
10/10 Witch Doctor
This is the main demon for this build, as it allows the player to tank without needing to monitor their hp as closely. Also a very efficient demon for parties, as he will graciously heal other players and their minions.
7/7 Hand of Nostrum
Hand of Nostrum allows the Doctor to use 8 healing beams, thus boosting his healing capabilities by a tremendous amount.
2/10 Afterlife, 1/7 Drain Life (3/10 and 2/7 with +1 AS, respectively)
The former is a prerequisite for the latter, but it may still be used.
Drain Life is intended to provide a panic button in cases where HP regeneration is needed, while also being a decent way to trigger Novas and damage/inflict elemental effects on flying enemies.
This is an optional choice that can be skipped entirely, or boosted by gear choices such as Tuskull (which can allow the user to acquire the skill while saving points in both it and Afterlife).
10/10 Darkform (formerly Zombie Form), 10/10 Dark Lord (formerly built-in on Zombie Form), 1/10 Dark Offering (formerly Zombie Sacrifice)
Note: Despite the planner’s description, Dark Offering increases its own damage when invested into, not the Dark Minions’.
Darkform is the main focus of the build, and it is maxed for its massive survivability boost. Dark Minions are maxed to provide decent damage-dealing minions, and a point in Dark Offering is invested as a means of dealing AoE damage and triggering Novas if need be.
Points in any skill, and Dark Lord even more so, can be invested elsewhere according to personal preference, of course.
1/10 Spectral, 10/10 Forces
As in the above build, the former is meant to provide a chance to phase enemies, while the latter are meant to be used as meatshields when needed. I’m using 10 Forces both for their synergy with Elemental Nova, and to maximize the number of diversions for enemies.
Fewer points in Forces and more points in other Elementals can be invested according to personal preference, of course.
10/10 Elemental Nova, 5/5 Master of the Elements
The latter is an absolute necessity due to the limited power pool, while the former is chosen for its short cooldown and decent radius/stun strength.
Fewer points can be invested in Elemental Nova. 1 is still needed for access to Master of the Elements.
3/6 Blood Link (4/6 with +1 AS), 10/10 Summoning Circle
Note: 3 points in the former are a prerequisite for the latter, despite the planner’s depiction.
Same as with the above build, both skills are meant to boost the Warper’s survivability.
10/10 Warper, 7/7 Spellstorm
The Warper is the focus of the build, so it is maxed for the damage boost. Spellstorm is meant to be used as a reliable way of phasing enemies.
Based on one’s power pool and/or personal preference, Spellstorm can be swapped with Spectral Strike or skipped entirely.
Notes (details in spoiler tags)
Both builds can use more points, preferably in Blink, Brom’s Curse and Elemental Drain.
Gear/ring choices can account for the extra skillpoints, but they will introduce some gear dependency.
Both builds rely on their core skills and the user's weapons.Both builds can benefit from Novas, and each is built around its core concept. The Darkform build will underperform if used without Darkform being active, and the Warper build will underperform if used without Nova guns.
Both builds will need +stat and +minion damage/health/armor pieces, and the latter added +power.As discussed in the gear section, the Darkform build massively benefits from said pieces. The Warper build will particularly need a boosted power pool to sustain its Forces and use activated skills.
Both builds can invest more points in Elementals, but it's ill-advised.As discussed in the introduction, Elementals currently underperform. Thus, both builds can invest more points in Elementals over other skills, but will need to account for their lack of survivability with +minion health/armor, and for their increased power requirements with +AA/+WILL/+power pieces.
A design retrospective
Disclaimer: These videos are by no means guides in themselves, nor are they in any way indicative of how Summoners are best built in the current TC environment. Rather, this is a design retrospective; a review of the design of Summoners up until the time of the TCv4, made to illustrate the theoretical core of the skillset of the class.
It is only included in the guide to provide theoretical context to newcomers and a revisionist perspective to veterans, in hopes that it may augment discussions on class balance and future changes.